KARACHI: The National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) and Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) on Sunday organised a protest to raise their voice against the dismissal of more than 4,000 workers of a denim manufacturing company, said to be one of the largest producers of garments for many international fashion brands.

The protest was held outside the Karachi press club and it was led by Sami Sahir and Himmat Phulpto along with a large number of retrenched workers.

Other participants in the protest included Nasir Mansoor and Rafiq Baloch of the NTUF, Zehra Khan of the HBWWF, Karamat Ali of the National Labour Council, denim clothing company workers including Sharan, Ahsan and Mohammad Zohaib, Salman Khan, Shakeel, Daniyal, Sarang Joyo and Sohni Joyo of Sindh Sujaghi Forum, Saeed Baloch of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Advocate Sajid and Ardash Tanveer, Manzoor Razi of Pakistan Railway Union, Aqib Hussain and Barkat of Alternate, United Home Based Garment Workers Union, Saira Feroze and Ruqqia Mohammed Hanif.

The participating labour leaders at the protest demanded that the sacked workers be reinstated and given back their benefits.

Addressing the protesters, the affected workers said that the denim clothing company has many units where thousands of workers are employed. A unit of the same company located in Korangi Industrial Area was forcing workers to hand in their resignations. The unit had around 4,000 workers, including 2,000 women, who were allegedly working in inhumane conditions.

Now those among them who have not handed in their resignations are being harassed and threatened with dire consequences including being forced out of work without their dues.

These workers had been working in the factory for five to 10 years. Now to avoid paying them the government-announced minimum wage of Rs25,000 and distribution of Eid bonus, the management started illegal retrenchment. The management is planning to impose a third-party contract system, which is against labour laws, they added.

The workers said that labour laws in the denim clothing company continued to be violated even though the factory produced merchandise for international fashion brands.

These brands have entered into Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) with Industrial Global Union (IGU) that the supplying factories will fully comply with local and international labour laws. But the factory has been violating the agreement for the past 10 years, they said.

The factory did not provide written employment contracts to its workers, most of whom are deprived of the Employees Old-age Benefit Institutions (EOBI) and social security cover.

The speakers alleged that the women workers there were subjected to sexual harassment and violence and deprived of their basic rights such as union formation and the right to bargain collectively.

A written complaint had been lodged with the labour department against the abuse of workers’ fundamental rights at the company. The labour department had asked the factory management to respond, but the management trampled on the labour department’s notice and refused to respond to any inquiries.

Demanding the reinstatement of the sacked workers, they asked international brands to comply with the GFAs and compel their local suppliers to respect and implement labour standards as envisage in the agreements.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022

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